Genealogy Road Trip Tip 12: Schedule scenic side trips

Tip 12:  Schedule scenic side trips. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

You and your travel partner have completed your genealogy road trip’s main event. Now it’s time to enjoy some scenic side trips to enhance your travel experience.

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The roaring falls on the East Canada Creek in Dolgeville, Herkimer County, N.Y. (2015) Take time to contemplate and photograph the natural wonders as you travel from place to place during your genealogy road trip. Photo by Molly Charboneau

A joy of journeying to an ancestral locale is to spend time in the environment in which your forbears lived, worked, raised families and participated in civic life.

What better way to get a feel for their day-to-day lives than to experience their hometown or homeland as they may have years ago?

So think like a tourist and come up with some ideas for scenic side trips like these:

Explore the natural surroundings. My fondest memories from genealogy road trips with my dad, Norm Charboneau, flow from the waterways of upstate New York.

In Forestport, Oneida County, New York — near Dad’s hometown — the rush of a waterfall cut through the stillness as we visited the church where our ancestors worshiped and the nearby cemetery where they are buried.

A larger falls, shown above, roars day and night behind the Alfred Dolge factory complex in Dolgeville, Herkimer County, New York, where our ancestors once worked. We took time out to contemplate and photograph these natural wonders as we traveled from place to place on our trips.

Enjoy museums and artwork. Are there murals, statues or other artworks worth seeing during your trip? What about exhibits at local museums or historical societies? These works of art could be anywhere, so do a bit of research.

That’s how my oldest sister and I ended up viewing a wonderful mural in the Dolgeville post office depicting the town’s abolitionist role in the Underground Railroad. It was painted by Works Progress Administration artists in the 1930s, when our ancestors lived in town, so they would have seen it whenever they posted mail.

Fairs, festivals and food. Will there be any fairs or festivals during your road trip? Any locally-owned restaurants you might want to eat at? These are great places to meet local residents and enjoy the area’s ambiance.

Another genealogy road trip with my sister to an ancestral home (our main event) ended with a fun scenic side trip to a local fair where our grandmother had won blue ribbons for her Early American Tole Painting — nostalgic for me, too, since summer work at the fair was my first paid job as a teenager.

And I can still taste the crisp, home-fried donuts served up at a local diner where I listened to my dad and Aunt Gig (his sister-in-law) joking and telling stories over steaming cups of coffee during our family history trip together.

Brainstorm with your travel partner to come up with one or two scenic side trips — then schedule them around your main event and any family history research you plan. It’s a road trip, after all — so be sure to have some fun!

Up next, Tip 13: Visit your ancestor’s homes. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Genealogy Road Trip Tip 11: Focus on the main event

Tip 11: Focus on the main event. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

Each genealogy road trip is likely to have a main event — the one key happening that can only be experienced by traveling to the destination.

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August 2014: Union Army reenactors, Governors Island, New York. Historic reenactments, parades and commemorative events are usually time sensitive and location specific, making them must-see main events if they occur during your genealogy road trip. Photo by Molly Charboneau

The rest of your trip itinerary — including research goals you might be able to accomplish without visiting the locale — should be scheduled around this event. Here are a few examples:

Historic commemorations. Historic reenactments, parades and commemorative events are usually time sensitive and location-specific — making them must-see main events if they occur during your genealogy road trip.

An oral history interview with an older family member. How many times have you wished you had interviewed your grandparents when they were living about your family’s history? If you have an ancestor or collateral relative who is getting up there in years, interviewing them face-to-face could be a main event for a genealogy road trip — a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear, in their own words, about their life and learn details about your shared ancestors.

Visiting an ancestor’s home. Census and other research often yields addresses of houses where ancestors’ once lived — and it’s sometimes possible to find images of these homes online. But seeing the residence in person during a genealogy road trip will leave a lasting impression of the neighborhood where your ancestors lived — something documents and images can never fully convey.

Local research venues. Sometimes locating and copying vital records for an ancestor could be the main event — especially if the records are not available elsewhere. Other times, visiting an ancestor’s house of worship and obtaining those local records may take priority.

Each trip will be different. But focusing on a main event — something that can only be happen at your destination — will help you achieve one primary goal on your genealogy road trip.

Thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Then stop back tomorrow for Tip 12: Scenic side trips.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Genealogy Road Trip Tip 10: Travel partner meeting

Tip 10: Travel partner meeting. Part of “Genealogy Road Trip Tips: Take Your Loved Ones With You” — 30 posts in 30 days for NaBloPoMo 2016.

My travel partner Jane Latour introduced me to a new Genealogy Road Trip concept — the travel partner meeting — when we traveled to sesquicentennial reenactments in Virginia of U.S. Civil War battles my Union Army ancestor fought in.

Violets. Take time to enjoy the flora or local sites on your genealogy road trip if these are a priority for your travel partner. By: designatednaphour

We had a great trip there and were settling into our hotel room — excited about soon being witnesses to history — when she suggested we state our intentions for the next few days.

Stating your intentions

“My sisters and I always take time when we travel to tell each other what our hopes and expectations are for the trip,” Jane said.

“Really?” I asked. This was a new one on me.

Many of my previous trips were with family members who shared my heritage, so it never occurred to me that we should state our intentions out loud. But genealogy road trips are about learning something new, and Jane’s suggestion seemed like a good one.

So we each made a brief statement about what we hoped to experience on our shared journey. Our common theme — to be a good friend to one another during the trip — helped frame our time together on the battlefields.

Including each partner’s wish list

Another benefit of the travel partner meeting is to be sure each partner’s wish list for the trip gets included in the itinerary.

Last year, I traveled with my oldest sister to Dolgeville, Herkimer County, New York for their annual Violet Festival and parade. Some of our paternal ancestors lived there, and reenactments of the Life of Alfred Dolge, for whom the town is named, were scheduled.

On our first night at the hotel, I suggested that we hold a travel partner meeting — something new to her since we last traveled together.

“Really?” my sister asked. But she was willing to give it a try.

That’s how we learned that my sister’s wish list included time to see the violets and purchase some to bring home with her, while mine centered on taking photos of the Alfred Dolge living history presentations.  So we made sure to allow time for both of these activities.

Travel partner meetings help set the itinerary for a successful genealogy road trip, so think about including them in your family history trip planning.

What about you? Has stating your intentions helped focus trips you’ve gone on? Could you see yourself doing this in the future? Share your experiences in the comment section.

Then join me tomorrow for Tip 11: Focus on the main event.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time